Making smart grocery choices can save us money. But with healthy food swaps, you can take this habit up a notch to get both nutritional and financial benefits in the cart!
I know. Healthy and affordable are two descriptive words you don’t usually use together. However, you’ll be surprised how a little switch can make a huge difference.
So, for your next grocery shopping, try buying these budget options in place of their not-so-healthy counterparts.
1. Fresh Potatoes, not Bag of Potato Chips
To make a family-sized bag of potato or vegetable chips, you’ll need one large potato, lots of oil and salt, plus food packaging that you cannot eat.
So, it’s cheaper and healthier to buy raw potatoes, cook them in an air-fryer, then toss them in spices or herbs of your choice. You can even cook potato skins to reduce food waste and increase your fibre intake.
Popcorn kernels are healthy food swaps to store-bought potato chips as well. They make an equally filling snack with better carbs. And you can lessen the oil and calories if you cook them in an air popper.
2. “Regular” Food, not “Diet” or “Lite” Products
It’s funny how food items with less fat or sugar tend to be more expensive than regular ones. Aside from higher costs, some of these specialty products are not exactly healthy.
So, if you want to stay on the healthy and budget track, stick to non-specialty food items. It’s best to control our food portion sizes, too. Plus, regular products taste better.
3. Natural Yoghurt, not Flavoured
Flavoured yoghurts typically cost more than plain ones. They may be more delicious, but that’s because they also have too much sugar.
Here’s what you can do instead. Buy plain yoghurt, then top it with your favourite fruit or nuts. If you want it sweeter, you can always add cinnamon, honey or vanilla.
The important thing is that you know what you’re adding to your food. When you grocery shop, look for yoghurt with live cultures, too, aside from low-sugar content.
Do you know what else is good about plain yoghurt? It’s super versatile! You can use it as a sour cream, mayo or cream cheese substitute. Yoghurt also comes in handy when making sauces, dressings or pancakes.
4. Flavoured Water, not Sodas
Water is better. And drinking eight glasses of it is excellent for our immune system. We’ve heard of this advice over and over. But a can of soda is simply hard to resist, even if it costs more.
What you can do is to look for water infusion recipes instead. Use fresh berries, sliced cucumbers or even leftover lemon rind as healthy food swaps to loads of sugar.
I prep this ahead of time using my water bottle or pitcher, so flavours can infuse overnight. If you find this time-consuming, drinking tea is another great alternative.
5. Fresh Fruits, not Overly Sweet Granola
You can easily find nut, energy and granola bars at the healthy food aisle of any grocery store. But the thing is, most are also laden with sweeteners and preservatives.
So, if you want a fibre-rich snack minus all the additives, fresh fruit is 100% better, not to mention cheaper. The natural sugars in fruit are also easier to process. Best of all, you do not have to worry about the extra food packaging.
You can make the most of this simple food swap by buying seasonal fruits in bulk. They taste a lot better, and you’ll be saving more money. And in case of excess, you can always vacuum seal or preserve them to extend their shelf life.
6. Oats, not Boxed Cereals
Similar to granola, most store-bought breakfast cereals are also too sweet to be a healthy morning meal. While these give kids a boost, the energy burst will soon run out and lead to a mid-morning slump.
There are healthy cereal choices available, though. But you have to read and study the product label carefully before buying. Alternatively, get inexpensive foods like oats instead.
Oats contain more vitamins and minerals and have lots of health benefits. For instance, it can lower cholesterol levels and aid in digestion.
And like plain yoghurt, you can put a spin on a bland bowl of oats by adding sliced fruit, chopped nuts and all sorts of healthy flavourings. Oats are perfect for making crisp home-baked cookies, too!
7. Homemade Dressings, not Bottled
It is easy to pick up a bottle of dressing or vinaigrette from the store for whipping up a quick salad any time. However, bottled sauces can be expensive and contain all the unnecessary extras I can’t correctly pronounce.
Worse, some do not even taste that great. A foolproof way to combat all these is to make your salad sauces homemade. That way, you can opt for healthier oils to make your vinaigrette or use yoghurt for a creamy dressing.
I prefer making them in smaller portions, so I know I’m using a fresh batch each time. And I like to switch flavours after a few days or so, rather than finish a big bottle from the store.
8. Healthy Proteins, not Processed Meats
Fresh poultry, pork and meat are among the most expensive items on our grocery list. Processed meats like sausage and bacon may be a cheaper substitute. But they are also high in sodium and preservatives.
The best solution is to cut our meat intake and look for other affordable sources with similar, if not better, nutritional value. For example, replace chicken salad with egg for your next sandwich.
You can also use budget pantry staples like pinto or kidney beans for your burger mix, taco or pasta sauce. Or add lentils to casseroles, rice and noodles to get the extra dietary fibre and plant protein.
Now you don’t have to do all these healthy food swaps or completely forget about drinking sodas to save money. Instead, choose a grocery store swap or two that work for your household.
Rather than pick up lots of unhealthy stuff, buy them in moderation and treat them as rewards. Then make food variety, balanced weekly meals and controlled portions your priority.
Need more grocery shopping tips? Check out this list on how to make healthy eating possible even on a tight budget!